The Charette Project

Michael Scherotter's Digital Playground

My Story

Since a young age I was always good with computers. I spent many years of my adolescence tinkering on a personal computer: first TRS-80s at school, and then an IBM PCjr at home. It was a logical progression from building cities with Lego blocks to building programs in BASIC on a computer. At the time, no one understood what I was doing, and I had a difficult time explaining it to my family.


When I was in high school, I kept my interest in computers but also developed an interest in architecture and design. I attended the Career Discovery program at Harvard's Graduate School of Design and found that I would love architecture school. Based on that experience, I enrolled in the College of Architecture at the University of Arizona. I did well academically, always keeping in tune with computer technology by working as computer lab monitor and as a computer salesperson at the university bookstore. I loved design. I designed everything from airports to houses to chairs to transportation systems. Each summer while I was at Arizona, I worked for Donald Wexler, AIA, first as an office assistant and later as a junior draftsman. I was able to see first-hand how an architecture office worked. The only computers in that office were used for word processing. As school, I used the computers available to me as tools to help with my tasks but I found then hopelessly rigid and underpowered to replace my simple sketchbook.

When it came time to select a topic for my thesis project, I decided to build Charette a prototype for a pen-based portable architectural design tool based on the architect's sketchbook. The idea was to take the flexibility and informality of a sketchbook and combine it with a computer. Using tools like Fractal Design Sketcher and AutoCAD on a GRiD Convertible computer, I was able to demonstrate a vision of a portable design tool for architects. In my final year of architecture school, I saw two things: there were better building designers in my class than me and that I was better at computers than anyone else in my class. My mentor and thesis professor, Charles Albanese, AIA gave me this wonderful piece of advice: find what you're good at and what you like and become the best at that. From that advice, I decided to go to graduate school to combine my aptitude for computers with my love of architecture.

I found the perfect program: UCLA's School of Arts & Architecture had a Master's of Architecture program specializing in Computer Aided Design Tool Development. I was accepted to the program and under the guidance of Charles Eastman, Robin Ligget, George Stiny, and Murray Milne, I learned about CAD Software Development. I learned the basics of C and C++ programming as well as how to use programs like WaveFront, SGI Performer, AutoCAD, and Photoshop in the context of architectural design. While at UCLA, I was employed in a work-study program at the UCLA Medical Center Computing Services as a network technician. The CTO of the Medical Center, Dr. Mike McCoy was interested in my research with pen computers from Arizona and I was able to work with him investigating the use of a pen computer as a digital patient record tool for medical professionals. For my graduate thesis project I built a CAD tool for constructing quadrilateral meshes for curtain wall design based on OpenGL and MFC.

CAD Software

Having received my Masters of Architecture Degree, I found a job with Tartus Development, Inc., a consulting firm in San Rafael, California which specializes in building CAD software for the A/E/C industry. I have been with Tartus since January 1995 and have grown to the role of Lead Software Architect. I have worked on various projects, but my main focus has been developing BC Framer for Boise Cascade Corp., a tool for automating the production of working drawings for floor and roof framing. Throughout my time at Tartus Development, I have investigated and used many technologies including MFC, the Standard C++ Library, OpenGL, Open Inventor, Ricoh DesignBase, AutoCAD, OLE for Design and Modeling, Microsoft XSG, XML, XSLT, BeOS, and Microsoft .Net.

Mind Mapping Software

In January of 2003, I started at Mindjet LLC in Larkspur, California as the Software Development Manager, leading a team of software professionals to develop MindManager 2002 for Tablet PC, released in April 2003 and MindManager X5 Pro, released in October 2003. I then moved to the new Business Solutions Group at Mindjet, where I will be working to design and develop new and innovative uses of MindManager X5 Pro. That role evolved into evangelism of the solution platform where I created the popular Mindjet Labs website.

Media Experience Evangelist

In April 2007, I joined Microsoft as an evangelist focusing on media and entertainment scenarios.  I focus on explaining and demonstrating technologies like Windows Azure, Xbox, WPF, Silverlight, Windows, Windows Phone, and most recently the Kinect Sensor.  In this role, I have worked with some of the largest media companies in the world, including Adobe, Disney, 20st Century Fox, Time Warner, CBS, Netflix, Sony, and Hulu and even had the opportunity to work with Ice Cube and interview him

3D Printing

Another project that I have been engaged with at Microsoft is working with the Windows 3D printing team to help hardware manufacturers make their printers work better on Windows and help software developers build 3D printing apps that work great on Windows.  As part of this, I presented about Universal 3D Printing for the Microsoft Build conference in 2016.

My Career

In my career in software, I found the three elements of any job that I need to keep me satisfied, engaged, and doing amazing work:

  1. The role must be customer-facing in a domain that interests me: this keeps me grounded in reality – as I hear from customers and partners directly what they are trying to accomplish.
  2. I need to play with technology and code: For me, playing with software and code is the best way that I can learn how to explain technology to others.
  3. I need to be creative: I look at code as a creative tool that sits right beside my sketchbook, watercolors, pens, and pencils.  When I get an idea, I need to build it.

App Development

As an evangelist I’ve built a number of apps to better learn and explain the Microsoft developer platform:

Architecture for Windows Phone Browse architecture from around the world and nearby.
Logo Architecture for Windows 8 Browse architecture from around the world and nearby.
image Tile Charts for Windows 8 Turn your Windows 8 start screen into a dashboard of charts that automatically update
image Authentic for Windows 8 Player for Connected Media Experience media packages.
Zoetrope Stop-motion animation app that turns images from the webcam, scanner, files, or drawings into video animations.
Logo Time-Lapse for Windows 8 and Simplifies the task of creating time-lapse photographs by crowdsourcing the task. 
Kinetic Typography Design tool for Kinetic Typography experiences which animate lyrics, poems, or speeches.
Topographic Create 3D-printable topographic maps from anywhere in the world
OpenJSCAD Use JavaScript or block proramming to make models to 3D Print
Transcoder Transcode audio and video files from one format to another
Animated GIF Creator Create animated GIF images from videos

Last Updated 4/15/2016

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